National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

1881 Census

1881 Census

The 1881 census was taken on Sunday 3 April under provisions in the Act for the Taking of the Census in Scotland (43 & 44 Vict, c.38).  The methods used were the same as for the 1861 and 1871 censuses.

The population of Scotland on 3 April 1881 was 3,735,573.

This guide covers 1881 census questions and 1881 census street indexes.

1881 Census Questions

The question on the number of children attending school was dropped because this information could be inferred from age and occupation ("scholar”).

For the first time there was a count of the number of Gaelic speakers in each locality and the definition of a house differed from that used in England.  The Scottish version included dwellings with a door opening onto a common stair to more accurately reflect households within tenements.  This example from the 1881 census for Govan shows the occupants of tenement buildings at 6 Alma Street (our reference 1881/646-01/19, page 7).

Image of a page from the 1881 census for Govan

1881 Census Street Indexes

Census street indexes provide registration district (RD) and enumeration district (ED) references for each street in a city or urban area.  They also cover institutions such as asylums, hospitals, workhouses, prisons, police stations and barracks as well as hotels and public buildings.

There are 29 street indexes for the 1881 census.  They have been digitised and are made available as pdf files that are several megabytes in size. PDF files require Acrobat Reader. Download Acrobat Reader free Get Acrobat Reader.

If you can’t find a particular street it may not have existed in 1881 or may have had a different name.